A New Definition Would Add 102 Planets to Our Solar System — Including Pluto (Source: Washington Post)
In a giant exhibit hall crowded with his colleagues, he's attempting to
reignite the debate about Pluto's status with an audacious new
definition for planet — one that includes not just Pluto, but several
of its neighbors, objects in the asteroid belt, and a number of moons.
By his count, 102 new planets could be added to our solar system under
the new criteria.
“It's a scientifically useful bit of nomenclature and, I think, given
the psychological power behind the word planet, it’s also more
consumable by the general public,” Runyon said. “A classification has
to be useful, or else it’s just lipstick on a pig,” countered planetary
scientist Carolyn Porco. Runyon's definition “is not useful at all.”
The debate rages on. Click here.
Market Innovation Driving CubeSats
into the Mainstream (Source: Via Satellite)
Some of the world’s most exciting space developments are occurring in a
small form factor: CubeSats. Backed by strong commercial funding and
more launch availability, CubeSats are no longer just the domain of
academic learning experiments; they are becoming core to government and
commercial missions. The era of CubeSat 2.0 has arrived. Click here.
Vector to Announce Cape Canaveral
Launch Plans (Source: Florida Today)
An Arizona startup developing a rocket for launches of small satellites
this weekend will announce plans to launch missions to orbit from Cape
Canaveral, Space Florida said. Vector Space Systems on Saturday will
erect a test version of its Vector-R "micro-launcher" at Launch Complex
46, a vehicle that will then go on display at the Kennedy Space Center
Visitor Complex. CEO Jim Cantrell also “will announce the intention of
the company to use the launch facilities in the future,” according to
The two-stage Vector-R stands 42 feet tall and is designed to deliver
microsatellites weighing up to about 135 pounds to orbit. The rocket is
expected to debut in 2018, flying up to six times. The company
eventually envisions launching 100 or more times a year. The two-stage
Vector-R — the "R" is short for Rapid — stands 42 feet tall and
measures 42 inches around, and is designed to deliver micro-satellites
weighing up to about 135 pounds to orbit.
Several companies are developing small rockets to meet what they
project will be a burgeoning demand for launches of small satellites.
Rocket Lab's Electron rocket is expected to start launching this year
from New Zealand. Cape Canaveral-based Moon Express hopes to fly on an
Electron late this year. Virgin Galactic also is developing a small
satellite launcher and counts OneWeb Satellites among its customers.
Another startup in the same launch market, Texas-based Firefly Space
Systems, shut down last year. Editor's Note:
And don't forget Rocket Crafters. (3/21)
Russia’s Space Program Is Struggling
Mightily (Source: Slate)
The Russian space program doesn’t get a lot of great press these days.
The big news is not Russia but the rise of a new generation of
players—from countries such as China and India making ambitious
advances to billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos aiming for
the moon and Mars. And even when the Russian space program makes the
headlines, it’s often been for less-than-stellar news.
It’s not just the headlines. Many space policy analysts, too, are
counting out the country that gave us Sputnik, at least in terms of
breaking new ground. As the founder of George Washington University’s
Space Policy Institute, John Logsdon, noted, “Their budget is not
adequate to maintain a world-class space effort across the board.”
Despite being the only game in town as far as regular human access to
space, Roscosmos has been plagued by serious problems that don’t bode
well for the future. To get a sense of the challenges it faces these
days, it’s worth revisiting how the country’s position in space
declined so dramatically from its Soviet glory days. (3/21)
Calls Grow for the Creation of a
Kuwaiti Space Agency (Source: SpaceWatch)
The case for the creation of a Kuwaiti space agency is growing with
prominent Kuwaiti scientists advocating that the Gulf kingdom consider
the merits of establishing a formal entity to deal with space issues.
Quoted in the Kuwait Times, scientist Dr. Hala Al-Jassar, an Assistant
Professor in the Physics Department at Kuwait University, said that
Kuwait has all of the necessary requirements and resources – to include
human capital – needed to create a Kuwaiti national space agency.
“We have the budget, the talents, the expertize, and outstanding
graduates from the best universities,” she told the Kuwait News Agency
(KUNA). Dr. Jassar said that clear leadership is required from the
Kuwaiti government to establish a space agency, though she also points
out that even without a national entity for space policy and programs,
Kuwaiti universities are already doing a lot in space. (3/21)
Space Tourism Companies Will Write
Their Own Safety Rules Because the US Government Can’t (Source:
Within a year, says Blue Origin, it will begin flying humans to the
edge of space. That would grant the company, founded by Amazon chief
Jeff Bezos, a symbolic victory over competitors like SpaceX, Boeing and
Virgin Galactic, who are also pursuing plans to fly paying passengers
beyond earth’s atmosphere.
The inaugural flights of these new ventures will be a leap into the
unknown for the passengers, not least because they won’t benefit from
the tight regulation we’ve come to expect in everything from air
transport to private automobiles. The first spaceflight participants
will be guinea pigs in an experiment that asks: Just what does it mean
to be safe in space when the government isn’t in charge?
Technically, the FAA does have jurisdiction over any space launches by
US citizens and companies. But when it comes to human spaceflight, the
law is designed to give companies as wide a latitude as possible to
develop their technology. The Commercial Space Act allows the
government to make safety rules for paying space passengers only if it
is acting to prohibit a design or practice that has already “resulted
in a serious or fatal injury” or “posed a high risk of causing a
serious or fatal injury” in a previous flight. (3/21)
Pence Confirms Plans to Reestablish
the National Space Council (Source: Space News)
Vice President Mike Pence said March 21 that he expects the Trump
administration to reestablish the National Space Council, a move that
has the backing of a key member of Congress. Pence mentioned the
National Space Council at the end of a signing ceremony at the White
House for the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, an event
attended by members of Congress, NASA astronauts and NASA Acting
Administrator Robert Lightfoot.
“In very short order, the president will be taking action to re-launch
the National Space Council,” Pence said. “He’s asked me to chair that,
as vice presidents have in the past, and we’re going to be bringing
together the best and the brightest in NASA and also in the private
sector.” Trump nodded as Pence spoke and said, “Right.” (3/21)
Alabama [and Florida] Lawmakers Join
NASA Bill Ceremony (Source: Montgomer Advertiser)
Surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including two from
Alabama, President Donald Trump signed a $19.5 billion bill Tuesday to
fund NASA programs and reaffirm what he called a "national commitment"
to "human space exploration." Trump also hailed the nation's "heroic"
and "amazing" astronauts, including those "who have lost their lives"
over the decades.
"America's space program has been a blessing to our people and to the
entire world," Trump said. The NASA Transition Authorization Act of
2017 authorizes funding for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Last
week, the Trump team proposed a budget that would reduce NASA to $19.1
billion for the year after that.
The Oval Office crowd also included two former Republican primary
rivals of Trump, senators from states heavily invested in NASA: Marco
Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. They and other members of
Congress praised the plan. Also included in the ceremony was Florida
Rep. Bill Posey, and Sen. Bill Nelson, who traveled into space in 1986
aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. (3/21)
Breakthrough Starshot's Interstellar
Sail Works Best As a Ball (Source: Space.com)
The Breakthrough Starshot initiative, announced last year, has one very
ambitious goal: to use high-powered lasers to launch a tiny,
lightweight space probe toward our solar system's nearest star, Alpha
Centauri, which is located roughly 4 light-years away. Until now,
illustrations depicting this concept show the probe tethered behind a
parachute-shaped sail launched into interstellar space by a single, but
powerful, laser beam.
But new research indicates that this design is too unstable. If the
parachute tilts even a little bit, it could fly off the beam — and way
off course — dragging the probe along with it, the scientists say. The
optimal design? A tiny ball nestled among four laser beams.
Breakthrough Starshot team member Zachary Manchester. (3/21)
Russia, China Could Cooperate on
Developing Reusable Rockets (Source: Sputnik)
China has not yet decided on the basic design of its returning rocket.
What is known is that the scheme used in SpaceX is not being taken into
consideration, as it will be a different technology. One reason for
that is that China sees the US design as flawed in its excessive
consumption of fuel and payload.
“As far as we can judge, we are talking about a resumption of the
Baikal program, which was being developed in the 1990s,” Kashin said.
According to the expert, Baikal was supposed to be a part of a launch
vehicle equipped with aircraft wings. After the completion of the
launch and separation from the rocket Baikal was supposed to fly as an
ordinary aircraft and make a landing at an airfield.
“In Russia, there is some experience in the development of returning
systems due to the legacy of the Soviet program on the reusable space
shuttle, Buran, which was capable of automatic flight and an automatic
landing,” Kashin said. The expert further said that the development of
such systems could probably become another area of Russian-Chinese
cooperation as the cosmos is turning into one of the many spheres of
military confrontation right before our eyes. (3/21)
The Moon Could Have its Own Mobile
Data Network as Soon as Next Year (Source: WIRED)
A European group of scientists has announced plans to be the first
commercial company to land on the Moon, with a launch expected next
year. Part Time Scientists, or PTScientists, hopes to send a pair of
small rovers to the final landing site of the US Apollo program. The
rovers will hitch a ride on Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The Berlin-based company announced it has also partnered with Vodafone
to work on the first mobile data station on the Moon, which will
provide a way for lunar rovers to communicate with Earth. “This is a
crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system,”
said Robert Boehme, CEO of PTScientists. “In order for humanity to
leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond
our home planet. With 'Mission to the Moon' we will establish and test
the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the Moon.”
A lunar lander, called Alina, will double up as a communications base
station, helping manned missions to the Moon. The station will use LTE
technology, which is already used in a billion mobile devices on Earth.
LTE uses less energy than traditional radio communications. This means,
the company hopes, large amounts of data can be transferred from rovers
to Earth, via ALINA, without draining their batteries. (3/21)
Managers Say Orion Can Be Ready For
Crew In 2019 (Source: Aerospace Daily)
Lockheed Martin engineering managers in charge of developing the Orion
crew capsule for NASA say the vehicle planned for an unmanned
three-week mission in lunar orbit next year could be ready for an
eight-day lunar flyaround with two astronauts on board before the end
of 2019. (3/21)